Skype interviewing Vs. In-person interviewing
A recent ground-breaking article in BMC medical research methodology provides important new information in the debate over the validity of skype interviewing as a legitimate research tool.
The internet has provided great opportunities for qualitative researchers. Starting as far back as the late 90’s people where interested in VOIP (Voice over internet protocol) and early video conferencing, but neither caught on. With increased band width viable video calls became available and are becoming the normal form of communication for many people. But the question lingered, are they as good as in-person interviews.
In-person interviews have a certain romance to them. There is a sense of adventure in the journey and the mystery of meeting someone who you might never cross paths with. Further, there is the sense of shared intimacy from listening to someone speak openly and freely on a topic of importance to them. Much of which may be lost when talking through a screen.
Skype interviewing – advantages
There are however many advantages to Skype interviews, it is :
- Cheaper – no travel or accommodation costs.
- Faster – without travel time several interviews can be done in the time of a single in-person one.
- Environmentally sound – less travel means fewer emissions.
- Safer – both interviewer and interviewee are less vulnerable either whilst travelling or when entering the interview space.
It is no surprise that some qualitative researchers are drawn to the possibility of Skype interviewing. However, the question remains, is it any good? This is where ‘Comparing Skype (video calling) and in-person qualitative interview modes in a study of people with irritable bowel syndrome–an exploratory comparative analysis’ from BMC Medical Research Methodology(1) comes in. This article conducts a quantitative analysis of a study where both skype interviews and in-person interviews were conducted using the same questions, same interviewer, same transcriber to assess if there is any discernible difference between the two approaches.
And what does it conclude? In short in-person interviews were marginally better. But the difference proved so slight that using video interviews to save time, money or the world looks entirely valid and the slight margin may be ameliorated by conducting a few more interviews via Skype.
Skype interviewing – Reference
- Krouwel M, Jolly K, Greenfield S. Comparing Skype (video calling) and in-person qualitative interview modes in a study of people with irritable bowel syndrome–an exploratory comparative analysis. BMC Medical Research Methodology. 2019;19:219.